Aquarium – Glass Coral Reef – "Three Brains" - CODAworx

Aquarium – Glass Coral Reef – "Three Brains"

Submitted by Detroit Design Center

Client: Quicken Loans/Rock Companies

Location: Detroit, MI, United States

Completion date: 2012

Project Team


Erik Nordin

Detroit Design Center


Chris Nordin

Furnace Design Studio


This custom salt water aquarium has 160 piece of blown glass replicating a natural coral reef. Piece range in size from 4″ tall to 38″ tall. The reef is 10 feet long and lives in a 700 gallon salt water tank design and created by Israel and Erik Nordin for the center piece of the Rock Companies-Quicken Loans World Headquarters Executive Suites lobby.


As with all of the creations from the Nordin Brothers - this artpiece "Three Brains is a one of a kind design. The construction alone took six months to complete with a team of glass blowers. The reef was built and deconstucted 17 times to refine the overall look and landscape. A multitude of effects were used to create distortion, vivid colors, vaseline and motion with the glass forms. All of the coral was inspired by real coral species. Working as a collective 'hive" the magniture of this piece required skilled people working together. The Nordin's have 5 commisioned large scale sculptures in Quickens headquarters.


It was a pleasure for the Nordin's to work and collaborate with the interior designers, architects and construction people to bring this piece to live. The Nordin's actively look for unique projects where they can create one of a kind objects for the clients. The team of glass blowers include Chris Nordin who is a third Nordin Brother. Six glass blowers worked collectively to create the pieces of glass, Chris and Israel attended the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI both having received degrees in glass blowing. The team of glass personal have worked together for nearly a decade to hone their skills working together to create glass of this size and scope.

Additional Information

Months of studies on algae, lighting, and engineering were needed to create a piece of this size. The lighting incorporates leds that recreate the look of sun beams in the water. Actinic lighting and moonlight LEDs create a look that eliminates the color and turns the entire tank a violet and white color at night. This glass sculpture has been featured both in the US and Europe magazines including Design Spectrum and Marine Habitat in the UK. The Nordins are currently seeking clients interested in incorporating glass in their aqaurium and other architectural features.